At its upcoming meeting, the Council of the Institute of National Remembrance will address media reports of increased work on vetting of Polish Army officers.
According to Council member Prof. Andrzej Paczkowski, the decision to throw this group into the lustration “queue” right now is surprising and unclear. In an interview with polski-zbrojna.pl, the professor talks about how the Military Internal Service functioned and what is the state of the archives taken over after it.
Maciej Chilczuk: We have learned from the media that the Institute of National Remembrance intends to intensively deal with the vetting of Polish Army officers. What is the reason that at this very moment IPN prosecutors have taken up the officers’ statements?
Prof. Paczkowski:-This I do not know and I admit that I am a little surprised. At the next meeting of the Council of the Institute of National Remembrance I am going to ask about it. Due to the huge number of statements that the Institute has to verify, it was assumed that the statements of the highest authorities are checked first, but the decision to throw entire professional groups into the “queue” is not clear to me.
Has an official decision been made to intensify the work on officers’ statements?
– The prosecution division, in accordance with the law on prosecutors, is a completely independent body. Within the Institute we have developed a certain model of cooperation and information flow, but basically on the level of quantitative data: how many statements have been received, how many have been questioned, how many cases have been started, how many trials are in progress. The directions of interest of the prosecutors and their current activities result from the internal regulations of the division. Sometimes conflicts arise, because it is publicly questioned whether a person or a group of people were taken into custody without a clear reason, and accusations are made that this was politically motivated (this happened recently in Lublin with a lawyer of one of the politicians).
In what condition have the materials of military secret services of PRL been preserved?
– They were very intensively destroyed in the years 1989-1990. In the majority of cases of cooperation only record information about the fact of registration of a given soldier or officer was preserved, but on their basis we can say little about the actual nature of this cooperation. Of course, this affects the effectiveness of vetting procedures, but it is difficult to find a remedy for this state of affairs. The law requires vetting and the Institute must carry it out.
What did the recruitment process look like in practice?
– The Military Internal Service (Wojskowa Służba Wewnętrzna), because we talk about this institution during the vetting process, was mainly concerned with maintaining order in the army and economic crimes. It performed the tasks of today’s Military Police, that is, it conducted investigations on theft, mismanagement and breaches of disciplinary regulations. In contrast to the practice in the Stalinist period, however, it is difficult to talk about formal recruitment. The army is a specific institution, closed and hierarchical. That is why the contacts of the Military Security Service officers with other soldiers and officers were mostly of a much less official character. The services were based on the use of service, party, and often social ties. Internal regulations required officers to keep records of their contacts with collaborators, but in the 1970s and 1980s this was probably not as important as it had been before 1956.